I've written a couple of posts about this before, but I thought it was time for an updated post on the subject... How to Become a Runner.
In theory, becoming a runner is simple--you just run, and you're a runner! But anyone who tries it for the first time knows that it's not that easy. Running is tough! And at first, it's not enjoyable, because you get so out of breath and exhausted.
When I tried to start a running program (the popular Couch to 5K plan), I could never get through week 4. And more than anything, I hated doing run/walk intervals. I found myself dreading each run interval, which made the entire workout kind of miserable. Since I couldn't get past week 4, I finally decided to do my own plan--something that got the running portion out of the way at the beginning of the workout, and then I wouldn't have to dread the intervals.
My first run, I went out and ran as far as I could--which ended up being less than 1/10th of a mile. It was hard, and I couldn't imagine how anyone could run a mile, let alone a full marathon (as my friend Renee had done recently). I walked until that workout reached 30 minutes.
The next time I went out, I tried to run just a little farther than before. Then I walked until the workout reached 30 minutes. I continued to do this, going a little farther each time I ran. I wasn't progressing as much as I would have liked... until I talked to my brother about it, and he gave me some advice that would become the most useful advice I'd ever received. He told me to "Slow down! If you run really slowly, you'll be able to go a lot farther than you think you can."
The next time I ran, I ended up running my first mile! I couldn't believe how much better it felt when I went slowly. I felt like I could probably have walked faster than I was running, but it didn't matter at that point. I continued to increase my mileage until I was running three miles at a time. Only then did I start working on getting faster.
I recently wrote a training plan that is very similar to what I did when I started running. I wasn't following a formal plan, but the way I've written this is as close as it gets. Before getting started running, I suggest building up a routine of walking 30 minutes, 3-4 times per week. This is important because it makes the routine a habit. When you've built up this habit, you'll feel very "off" when you miss a workout--and that's a good thing! It will help you to stick with the plan.
Once you're in the habit of walking 30 minutes, 3-4 times per week, then you can start with "Week 0" of the training plan (which is just walking). You won't start any actual running until Week 1. The first running workout seems sort of silly:
Walk 5 minutes
Run 30 seconds
Walk 24:30 minutes
It totals 30 minutes, and there is a grand total of just 30 seconds of running! But it's nice to get that running portion out of the way early, and then you don't have to worry about it for the rest of the workout.
When I say "run" 30 seconds, what I really mean is "lightly jog". Pretty much anyone can jog lightly for 30 seconds! The plan progresses slowly, adding just 30 seconds to 1 or 2 minutes per workout. It's kind of amazing that by adding just a tiny amount here and there, you'll be running for 30 straight minutes after 12 weeks (11 weeks, if you don't count Week 0).
Some tips for getting started:
*I would suggest choosing a 5K race to sign up for. Sign up NOW, so that you are motivated to stick with the schedule. Once you're running for 30 minutes straight, you can continue to build up a base with my Base Building for Beginners plan. I would choose a race that is about 4 months away, and make that your motivation to stick with the training!
*If the running feels too hard, or you think you can't make it through the running portion, SLOW DOWN. It should feel ridiculously slow! If you slow down, and progress as the plan is written, you should be able to complete the workouts.
*Go to a running store and get fitted for good running shoes. They aren't cheap, but they are a great investment! The wrong running shoes can cause injury and making running miserable. Besides, if you invest in good shoes, you'll be more likely to stick with the training!
*Be consistent with your training. I can't stress enough how important it is to train consistently! Choose a training plan that you can fit into your life (the one I've written is 30 minutes, 3-4 times per week... which I think is do-able for pretty much anyone). Once you start skipping workouts, it becomes easier and easier to skip more--and then quit. Make a commitment that works for you (I committed to 30 minutes, 3 days per week) and make it NON-NEGOTIABLE.
*Do the plan with a friend, if possible, to make it more fun! If that doesn't work out, you can keep things interesting by running several different routes. Post to social media about your runs, so that you hold yourself accountable. Follow runners on social media like Instagram to motivate you to stick with your training.
All of that said, becoming a runner really is as simple as just running! And I promise that it gets easier the more you do it... when I think back to my first run, I'm kind of amazed at how far I've come. I went from running less than 1/10th of a mile to running three full marathons! I used to think running was the hardest exercise to do, but now I find it the easiest (aside from walking). If you stick with the training, and do it consistently, you will be amazed at yourself as well!